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What to do when a union wants to visit

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Purpose – Discussions with employees

Union officials have a right to enter your workplace to have discussions with your employees under the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act), provided they comply with the following:

  • The official must be the holder of a valid and current (3 year) right of entry permit issued by Fair Work Australia. The permits are granted to officials who have established that they are a “fit and proper person”.
  • The union must give at least 24 hours notice and not more that 14 days notice of the intended entry. The notice must be provided during working hours and discussions with the employees must be during meal breaks or other breaks.
  • The notice must:
    • Specify the section of the FW Act that entry is authorised under;
    • Include a statement that the union is entitled to represent the interests of an employee at the premises to be entered; and
    • Refer to the union’s rules that permit the entry.
  • The union official must show the permit and the notice upon request.
  • The employer can designate a suitable venue other┬áthan the usual lunchroom if it will not disrupt those employees who do not want to attend. The venue should be comfortable for those attending and should not be deliberately chosen to intimidate or to embarrass those attending. A Full Bench of Fair Work Australia recently criticised an employer who required the discussions to take place in a training room next the office of the HR Manager which had the apparent desired effect of no employees attending.

Purpose – Investigating a suspected breach of the FW Act

Union officials have a right to enter your workplace to inspect documents and to investigate a suspected breach of the FW Act, provided they comply with the following:

  • The official must be the holder of a valid and current (3 year) right of entry permit issued by Fair Work Australia.
  • The union must give at least 24 hours notice and not more that 14 days notice of the intended entry.
  • The notice must:
    • Specify the section of the FW Act that entry is authorised under;
    • Include a statement that the union is entitled to represent the interests of a named employee at the premises to be entered; and
    • Refer to the union’s rules that permit the entry.
  • The official must show the permit and the notice upon request.
  • The union must have reasonable grounds to suspect that a breach has occurred.
  • The official can inspect work, processes and records.
  • The official can interview any person who agrees to be interviewed and whom the union is entitled to represent.
  • The employer can designate a suitable venue other┬áthan the usual lunchroom if it will not disrupt those employees who do not want to attend. The venue should be comfortable for those attending and should not be deliberately chosen to intimidate or to embarrass those attending.

Author: Charles Cody